Soon after arrival in Yangon I was put in touch with Father Benjamin, a Karen priest who runs the Ayerwaddy Homeland project near Myaungmya. Luckily, he happened to be visiting Yangon, so we were able to meet and we hit it off straight away. Father Benjamin, who stayed for 6 years in France, training and serving his French host community, is a man of keen perception and great awareness of the risks and potentialities facing his small Karen community of 300 souls.
Maungmya is located in the northwestern part of the Ayerwaddy Delta and is a very pleasant small regional market town and administrative center. I've been re-reading “Finding George Orwell in Burma” by Emma Larkin and coincidentally, Orwell was posted to Myaungmya for several months in the 1920s. The town still retains many old colonial era buildings and a relaxed back-water atmosphere.
Father Benjamin started the Ayerwaddy Homeland project over twenty years ago and it's main goal is to provide community livliehood and education while conserving the traditional rural lifestyle through sustainable agriculture. This is a noble task and Father Benjamin is deeply committed to helping his community be as self-sufficient as possible. I visited both the community living in the forest and the hostels for students in Myaungmya and the nearby large port city of Pathein.